Wilmington and Island Beaches Accolades

Another day, another accolade. Well, not exactly. But a recent surge in tourism-related national recognitions has certainly kept Wilmington and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach in the news. We thought it might be fun to harvest some of the more recent Kudos for your enjoyment and consideration!


USA Today 10Best Readers' Choice 2021

The star of Wilmington's revitalized riverfront, the Wilmington Riverwalk, has been chosen as one of USA Today 10Best Readers' Choice 2021 Best Riverwalks. The vibrant space allows for outdoor recreation, al fresco dining, nightlife, water tours, cultural activity and scenic views.

ecoEXPLORE logo

Halyburton Park, which features a 58-acre preserve of gently rolling sandhills, natural trails, a Nature & Events Center and more, was recently designated as an ecoEXPLORE (Experiences Promoting Learning Outdoors for Research and Education) Hotspot with the North Carolina Arboretum. The innovative pilot program combines science exploration with kid-friendly technology to foster a fun learning environment for children while encouraging them to explore the outdoors and participate in citizen science. 

Oprah Magazine Logo

Wilmington is featured as one of the 28 Best Christmas Towns & Villages Across the World by The Oprah Magazine, highlighting Enchanted Airlie where 35-acres of forest and beautiful gardens are covered in one million festive holiday lights.

Architectural Digest Logo

Architectural Digest included Wilmington's Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts, one of the country's oldest theaters, on their list as one of The Most Beautifully Designed Theaters in the Country.

USA Today Ten Best

Wilmington's Battleship NORTH CAROLINA named one of the Best North Carolina Attraction by USA TODAY.

Orbitz logo in blue

Airlie Gardens was named by Orbitz as the Best Place to Get Married in North Carolina.

Conde Nast Traveler logo

Condé Nast Traveler named Thalian Hall one of The Best Movie Theaters in America, noting its flair for the dramatic revival and late Victorian architecture and frequent film festivals and acts on stage.

USA Today Ten Best

USA TODAY 10BEST Reader’s Choice awards voted The Battleship NORTH CAROLINA as one of the top five Best Museum Ships in the U.S.

Fox News

FoxNews.com included the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA in its list of Best of America's Battleships & Aircraft Carriers on Display.

Fox News

Fox News Travel included the Wilmington Railroad Museum among its international roundup of 12 Most Incredible Model Railways.

Architectural Digest logo

Architectural Digest featured Thalian Hall Center for Performing Arts among its roundup of 14 Historic American Theaters.


Food & Drink

AAA 4 Diamond Award

Manna Avenue restaurant received its eighth consecutive AAA Four Diamond rating in 2022.

SIP Awards Logo

International Consumer Tasting 2020 SIP Awards were bestowed upon End of Days Distillery. The new small-batch distillery’s Port of Entry rum and gin each took Double Gold awards and its Port of Entry vodka won Silver honors. Additionally, the Port of Entry Vodka was named NC Vodka of the year at the New York International Spirits Competition earlier this year. 

Livability.com Logo

Wilmington made the top of the list of Livability.com's 5 Awesome North Carolina Beer Cities (That Aren’t Asheville). Find out about the city's craft beer evolution, pair oysters with IPAs and discover a brewery inspired by a pirate legend.

NC Brewers Cup Logo

Four local breweries brought home eleven awards from the 2020 NC Brewer's Cup competition held by the NC Craft Brewers AllianceBill’s Brewing Co. took home the gold for their Party in the Back beer in the coveted New England IPA category, and brought home two bronze medals in both the Dark European category for Merganser and in the American IPA category for Wave Break. New Anthem Beer Project took home two medals including gold in the Double IPA category for Clapback, silver for their She Just Danced Away brew in the Brett, Mixed & Wild Ale category and bronze with their The Vapors brew in the Specialty IPA category. Mad Mole Brewing took home two silver and one bronze medal scoring second place in the International Pilsner category for their Ledermolesen, second place in the Belgian & French Ale category for Marilyn MonMole, and third place in the American Amber & Brown Ale category for Mole Dancer. Wilmington Brewing Company scored two silver medals. Their Label Fiasco came in second in the New England IPA category and their Palm Tree Island beer won second place for American Pale Ale.

Wine Spectator Award of Excellence Logo

Three Wilmington restaurants have been recognized by Wine Spectator magazine for their carefully selected wine lists. Grand Cru Food & Wine, The Fortunate Glass and Ruth's Chris Steak House have each received the 2020 Award of Excellence based on their assortment of wines by quality producers that complement menus in both price and style.

Craft Beer logo

The Brewers Association, the nation’s largest trade group of craft brewers, suppliers, distributors, and beer retailers, named Fermental as the "Best Beer Bar" in North Carolina. Fermental is set inside the comfortable confines of a 1940’s bungalow with a unique assortment of seating areas, and is part of the Wilmington Ale Trail. The large outdoor patio and backyard includes picnic tables, food trucks, fire pits and a stage.

Reader's Digest Logo

The readers of Reader’s Digest have selected Casey’s Buffet in Wilmington as The Best All-You-Can-Eat Buffet in North Carolina. Visitors to Casey’s enjoy Southern soul food including their famous barbecue, pigs' feet, collard greens, fried chicken and much more.

Southern Living Logo

Southern Living magazine has chosen Bitty & Beau's Coffee as one of the "South's Best Coffee Shops." At Bitty & Beau's Coffee in Wilmington, the true testament to community shines through the baristas. Servers with IDD (intellectual and developmental disabilities) are the heart and soul of the coffee shop, making each customer feel welcome.

South's Best Logo Southern Living

PinPoint restaurant was voted one of the "South's Best Restaurants," by the readers of Southern Living magazine. Noting "PinPoint shows off the prodigious produce and seafood harvested in the coastal city of Wilmington from butterbean hummus to a rotating cast of local oysters at the raw bar."

Front Street Brewery

A panel of brewers and judges analyzed beers from across the state and awarded Front Street Brewery eight medals at the 2019 Carolina Championship of Beer. Front Street Brewery took the gold for its Sinful Stout.

Brewers from the Sun Logo

With over 12,000 votes submitted, Wilmington's Mad Mole Brewing won the award of America's Favorite Solar-Powered Microbrewery. In competition with breweries from across the nation, the Mad Mole won top place by over 300 votes. The brewery is Wilmington's only solar-powered brewery with a 22-megawatt solar system and 63 panels on its south-facing roof. Stop in to enjoy a wide variety of beer styles including Belgians, IPAs, hefeweizens and more.

Open Table Logo

RX Restaurant was named one of the 50 Best Southern Restaurants in America for 2018 by OpenTable.

Daytime Emmy Logo

Chef Vivian Howard, owner of Benny's Big Time Pizzeria in Wilmington, has added two more awards to her growing list of accolades. She took home the Daytime Emmy Award for Best Culinary Program for her PBS show "A Chef's Life." She also won a James Beard Foundation Award for her video webcast, Black Bean-Glazed Salmon with Ginger Cabbage, which airs on pannacooking.com.

 24/7 Wall St Logo

24/7 Wall St. named Wake n Bake the best doughnut shop in North Carolina in their list of The Best Doughnut Shop in Every State.

Open Table Logo

Caprice Bistro was named one of the 100 Most Romantic Restaurants in America by OpenTable.

CNN logo

CNN named Amy Wright, founder of Bitty & Beau's Coffee, their 2017 Hero of the Year for her efforts to advocate for disabled people. The business has also been featured in Southern Living magazine, "The Rachel Ray Show," “The Harry Connick, Jr. Show” and on UNC-TV.

The Bourbon Review logo

The Bourbon Review named Front Street Brewery one of the Top 20 Bourbon Bars in the South. Front Street Brewery holds over 400 whiskeys on their shelf, 176 of which are bourbons, serves 11 signature bourbon cocktails, 11 bourbon flights, and a consistent rotation of bourbon barrel aged beers on tap.

Travel and Leisure logo

TravelandLeisure.com included Wilmington on its list of America's Favorite Cities for Brunch.

Southern Living Logo

SouthernLiving.com named PinPoint Restaurant, located in Wilmington's River District, among their picks for Best New Restaurants of 2016.

Catch Logo

CATCH Restaurant’s chef/owner Keith Rhodes was chosen to participate in the 2016 James Beard Foundation Boot Camp. Rhodes was the only NC chef participating in that year’s event.

Buzzfeed logo

Buzzfeed.com named Wake n Bake Donuts (with locations in Carolina Beach and Wilmington) as North Carolina's best doughnut shop.

Rachael Ray logo

“The Rachel Ray Show” chose Bitty & Beau’s Coffee as the show’s official coffee. Bitty & Beau’s is a coffee shop in Wilmington that employs adults with intellectual disabilities. The business has also been featured in Southern Living magazine, “The Harry Connick, Jr. Show” and on UNC-TV.

Garden & Gun logo

Garden and Gun magazine’s Guide to Best Southern Burgers included Wilmington restaurants PT’s Grille and Ogden Tap Room.

Scoutology What New

Scoutology.com included two Wilmington breweries—Flytrap Brewing & Wilmington Brewing Co.—on its list of 16 Great N.C. Breweries to Try.


Scoutology.com included three Wilmington & Beaches eateries—manna, Rx and 21 North on its list of Top 21 N.C. New American Restaurants.

Craft Beer image CraftBeer.com included Wilmington, NC in its list of America's Beeriest Beach Towns.
Smart Asset logo SmartAsset.com ranked Wilmington #7 among Best Cities for Beer Drinkers.


Thrillist.com included Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn (locations in Wilmington and Carolina Beach) among its list of 33 Best Burritos in America.

Coastal Living

Coastal Living included Shuckin’ Shack on its list of the Best Seafood Dives in America.



AAA 4 Diamond Award

Wilmington’s AAA Four Diamond lodging recipients in 2021 include Graystone Inn B&B (22 years) and The Verandas B&B (19 years.)

AAA Housekeeping Award

16 lodging properties (12 hotels & 4 B&Bs) in Wilmington have been awarded the AAA Inspectors Best of Housekeeping Award, meaning that they fall within the top 25% of all hotels based on cleanliness and condition. This program highlights AAA Diamond designated properties that are the top tier in housekeeping.

Hotels: Residence Inn by Marriott Wilmington Landfall, Hotel Ballast Wilmington, Hilton Garden Inn Wilmington Mayfaire Town Center, Best Western Plus Coastline Inn, Homewood Suites by Hilton-Wilmington/Mayfaire, Hampton Inn by Hilton Medical Park, Hampton Inn-University Area, Hampton Inn by Hilton-Wilmington Downtown, Staybridge Suites Wilmington East, Courtyard by Marriott Downtown/Historic District, Comfort Inn University, Holiday Inn Wilmington

Bed & Breakfasts: The Verandas, Graystone Inn, C.W.Worth House, Rosehill Inn Bed & Breakfast

Select Registry logo

Select Registry announced two Wilmington bed-and-breakfast inns as 2016 distinguished members: The Verandas and Graystone Inn. Select Registry is a portfolio of more than 320 quality ­assured premier inns, bed and breakfasts, and boutique hotels throughout North America.


Area Accolades

Travel and Leisure Logo

Dawson’s Creek and other TV and film productions may have put Wilmington on the map, but there’s so much more to this lively riverfront city than Hollywood ties. Find out why Travel + Leisure ranked Wilmington No. 4 on their "25 Best Weekend Getaways in the South."

Movie Maker Logo

Known for charming homes and gorgeous beaches, Wilmington looks so idyllic that filmmakers can’t help but cast it against type in scary stories — it’s the site of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, the fifth Scream, The Black Phone; and Halloween Kills. Read the full article to see why MovieMaker ranked Wilmington No. 2 of their "2023 Best Places to Live and Work." 

Conde Nast Traveler logo

With historic charm around every corner, colorful springtime azaleas in a premier Southern garden, scenic Riverwalk plus three island beaches, Wilmington offers the quintessential Carolina coastal experience in one destination. See why Conde Nast Traveler's readers ranked Wilmington one of the Best Small Cities in the U.S.

Southern Living Logo

Wilmington has stepped into the limelight with a burgeoning food scene, blossoming downtown, and enough cultural and outdoor activities to fill a weekend itinerary several times over. See why Southern Living magazine included Wilmington and Island Beaches in its list of The South's Best Cities on the Rise 2021.

Southern Living South's Best 2020

When Southern Living magazine asked their readers to choose "The South's Best Cities" in 2020, Wilmington's beautiful waterfront city loaded with historic charm made the list. Readers love Wilmington's balance of big-city activity and dining, with a small-town feel that's manageable for a quick getaway. Visit the city’s two-mile Riverwalk and Historic District, where beautiful Victorian-style homes make for many a photo op. Access to three island beaches adds to the attraction, making Wilmington a true southern gem.

Better Homes & Gardens Logo

Better Homes & Gardens ranks the NC Azalea Festival as #3 among “9 Must-See Spring Garden Festivals in the U.S.

Outside online logo

Great weather and a variety of affordable outdoor activities and events led Outside magazine to include Wilmington among its list of "Affordable Adventure Trips in North America."

Pinnacle Awards Logo

Wilmington's North Carolina Azalea Festival brought home four Gold and three Silver awards from the International Festivals & Events Association (IFEA) and Haas & Wilkerson Insurance's 2019 Pinnacle Awards. Categories won include Best Parade and Best Children's Programming among others. The professional competition draws entries from some of the world’s top festivals and events.

Logo for the Southeast Tourism Society

The Southeast Tourism Society has named the North Carolina Azalea Festival one of the STS Top 20 Events in the Southeast for April of 2019.

House method logo

House Method included Wilmington and beaches in its list of 20 Small Towns Perfect for a Winter Getaway noting our unique museums, extensive history, a wealth of restaurants and walkable downtown.

FlipKey logo

Wilmington has been selected as one of the 25 Best Pet-Friendly Vacations in America by FlipKey by TripAdvisor based on their unique travel data, industry research, and traveler feedback.

Ironman Logo

IRONMAN 70.3 North Carolina won in two worldwide categories in the Athletes' Choice Awards. The triathlon spans Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington and ranks second for best overall run and tied for fifth in best overall swim in the world.

Logo for the Southeast Tourism Society

The North Carolina Jazz Festival, Coastal Living Show and U.S. Open Fat Bike Championship on nearby Wrightsville Beach all made the list of Southeast Tourism Society's (STS) 2018 Top 20 Events for Winter. STS has also named the North Carolina Azalea Festival one of the Top 20 Events in the Southeast for April 2018.

2018 Travelers' Choice Logo

Wilmington has been selected as one of TripAdvisor’s 2018 Travelers’ Choice Top Destinations on the Rise. Wilmington ranks #3 among all U.S. destinations on the list. The Trip Advisor Travelers’ Choice Awards represent the very best of travel, as chosen by millions of travelers.

FlipKey logo

Wilmington was recognized as one of America’s 15 Best Girls’ Weekend Getaways Across America from reviewers on FlipKey, featuring local shops and dining options lining the Riverwalk to coastal retreats on the water.

Expedia - 21 of the Most Scenic East Coast Cities

Expedia.com named Wilmington one of America’s 13 Hottest Up-and-Coming Coffee Cultures featuring a caring coffee community, animal-friendly java runs, cafes to relax and sip after shopping downtown and more.

Jetsetter Magazine logo

Jetsetter Magazine named Wilmington one of America's Coolest Southern Towns.

League of American Bicyclists accolade

League of American Bicyclists included Wilmington, NC as one of 12 NC cities designated a Bicycle Friendly Community. This award is presented to communities that have shown a significant commitment to bicycling.

10 Best Logo

USA TODAY 10Best Reader’s Choice travel awards voted The North Carolina Azalea Festival #5 Best Flower Festivals.

CNN logo

Wilmington named one of 15 Cities in the South That Know how to Charm by CNN Travel.

Country Living logo

Country Living magazine included Wilmington among its list of 26 Under-the-Radar Southern Towns for Girlfriend Getaways.

ValuePenguin logo

ValuePenguin.com ranked Wilmington, NC as the #8 Best City for Tourists.

US News logo

U.S. News & World Report online travel included Wilmington & Beaches in a roundup of charming under-the-radar Southern cities worth exploring.

Trip Advisor

TripAdvisor.com included Wilmington among its list of 9 Towns with Treasure Waiting to be Discovered.

triathlete magazine logo

Triathlete Magazine included Wilmington among its Best Places to Live for Triathletes, citing mild winters, triathlon clubs, ocean, Intracoastal Waterway, historic riverfront and the Gary Shell Cross-City Trail.

The Huffington Post logo

The Huffington Post showed the Cucalorus Film Festival some love via the CheapTickets.com blog 10 Best Film Festivals You've Never Heard Of.

Moviemaker logo

MovieMaker Magazine included the Cucalorus Film Festival among its 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World.

USA Today Ten Best

USA TODAY 10Best Reader’s Choice travel awards voted Wilmington, NC as America’s Best Riverfront.

USA Today Ten Best

USA TODAY 10Best Reader’s Choice travel awards voted Wilmington, NC as the #1 Best Al Fresco Dining Neighborhood.

matador network logo

MatadorNetwork.com included Wilmington, NC in its list of 20 Coolest Beach Towns in America.

usa today

USA TODAY Travel included Wilmington’s Fourth of July celebration in its roundup of dazzling "Fourth of July Fireworks Displays in America’s Cities."

Parents Magazine Resized 100 100 90 S C1

Holiday Inn Resort in Wrightsville Beach was named one of The 10 Best Budget Beach Resorts by Parents Magazine.

Vacation Idea magazine logo

Wilmington Named one of the 25 Best Small Town Honeymoon Destinations in the U.S. by VacationIdea Dream Vacation Magazine.


Read News and Accolades at Our Three Island Beaches